October 16, 2013NEW DURHAM — The first appointment on the morning agenda for the New Durham Board of Selectmen's Oct. 11 meeting was with the town's light equipment mechanic, David Home.
Home, under the direction of the board, is looking at other software options for keeping track of inventory both as it is stored and used for maintenance purposes.
Home informed the board he had found software they could use, but it has more options than the town could utilize.
Currently the town is using a program that was donated by a resident, but it needs updating and the resident is having a difficult time fitting it into his/her schedule.
The board and Home discussed to what degree items needed tracking.
Chairperson Terry Jarvis stated historically the tracking started with items costing more than $100, but two years ago the board decided to have everything tracked right down to each nut and bolt used in repairs.
Jarvis expressed concern over the time employees spent on tracking inventory.
Home told her it only took him minutes, but for office manager Cathy Orlowicz, the time invested was greater.
"We ought to review things periodically. I think we need to review our instructions," stated Jarvis.
Selectman Jeff Kratovil disagreed, saying he felt this information was important in tracking the costs of equipment.
Selectman David Swenson seemed to find value in keeping track of items above a certain cost. He asked Home if he used the information himself.
Home stated he did periodically access this information when looking back over the past few years to see the costs of certain items. He stated the information tracked may be found and put together, but not in a "nice, clean report" currently.
The board agreed Home should continue looking for new software even if it has features the town won't use.
Swenson stated the software may payoff in the long run if it allows the town to realize they could use a vehicle for another two to three years.
Kratovil stated he felt the town was two years into this project and they had nothing to show for it.
Home disagreed, saying the information is there. It is just not easily presented.
Kratovil said he was not the department head so it, therefore, was not his decision how the information was gathered, so long as it was done.
Home disagreed again, stating the decision did lay with the board because if the town was going to spend $1,500 on software it needed to be decided by the selectmen. Home said it was not in his budget.
Police Chief Shawn Bernier stood and stated he was running into a similar problem with his department. He has been asked by a budget committee member to keep track of certain costs and he, too, does not have the appropriate software to do so.
Road Agent Mike Clarke agreed with Bernier.
Clarke said he has been approached recently by a budget committee member with seven to eight pages of questions, which need answers by budget time.
According to Clarke, simply finding the answers to these questions is taking up a lot of his and Orlowicz's time.
Kratovil asked if the questions were coming from the budget committee as a whole or from an individual.
Clarke shared it was an individual. Swenson urged the department heads to still be "sensitive" to the citizens and answer questions to the best of their ability. He acknowledged it is a "tightrope" they walk at times since the department heads needed to not detract time from the job they have been hired to do.
Clarke accused the board of selectmen for being guilty of the same thing.
He gave as an example the retirement of one of his employees. Clarke has wanted for some time to replace this employee, but he feels the board is repeatedly asking him for documentation as to why he needs that sixth position.
"My commitment is to the citizens of New Durham, the board of selectmen, and first of all to the guys who work for me," stated Clarke.
Capital reserve expenditure
Home also requested the board allow him to take some money from a capital reserve fund, set up in March 2010 for unanticipated vehicle and truck expenses, to cover some items in his budget meeting that description.
A tree fell on top of a backhoe while removing it after a storm and the automatic tarp set up on a dump truck had to have its arms replaced after they were bent.
According to Home, at the end of the 2012 fiscal year, the account had a little over $20,000 in it.
Home was asking for roughly $1,500 of that money to keep him "from going into the red on that particular line."
Swenson and Jarvis told Home to pay the bills out of another line item and to come back to them with this request in November.
"We do the official spending out of CRFs at the second meeting in December," informed Jarvis.
Transfer station foreman Joe Bloskey met with the board regarding an error with the town's newly purchased Quonset hut.
Due to the layout at the transfer station, Bloskey made a call to have his men prepare set up for the hut beginning off side of one bay end wall. As a result, when the hut was set up it did not fully cover the third bay, leaving its contents still exposed to the weather.
One purpose behind the town voting to purchase the Quonset hut was for covering the bay containing roof shingles.
Bloskey is trying to fix this error by finding another way to store and keep the shingles under cover.
Bloskey began by apologizing to the board. He acknowledged this mistake was his and stated it was the first time he had made a mistake of this magnitude.
He requested the board allow him to spend an additional $2,072.50 on laying concrete for an area where his crew would build a covered structure for storing shingles.
The town approved $18,400 for the Quonset hut project. Of that amount $5,216.50 remains.
However, Swenson and Jarvis did not want to approve the pouring of concrete for the new covered area until they has a total project cost.
"Come back with a complete not to exceed amount…" directed Swenson.
Kratovil told Bloskey he appreciated the acceptance of responsibility and that he felt this was a "learning experience" for the town.
Kratovil went on to say he felt there should have been some type of engineering in the beginning of the Quonset hut project.
Jarvis agreed with Kratovil that, "we all learned from this. We need to ask additional questions, study or not."
Tax collector Carole Ingham met with the board regarding numerous properties in the town's hands, which have been taken over during the past several decades.
Ingham told the board she is currently working on an excel spreadsheet showing what revenues the town has missed due to these properties.
"I am assuming you will hire a realtor and find out the best value and a realtor will facilitate this," stated Ingham.
She also advised the board the base value on each property is irrelevant because the market will tell what the value is for a property.
Jarvis said she is interested in putting as many properties back on the tax roles as possible. The only exception would be properties the town is interested in holding on to for conservation efforts.
Ingham informed Jarvis any properties the town would like to keep has to be voted on at town meeting.
Kratovil stated he was for using a realtor.
Jarvis asked Ingham if the realtor cost could be added on to the properties. Ingham stated it could.
Jarvis agreed to pursue the sale of properties and seek advice from a realtor.
Clarke informed the board the garage addition had begun with the pouring of the concrete floor. The roof construction was to begin the following week.
Clarke wanted to purchase a used plow for $4,900, which was two years old. The one replacing was said by Clarke to be "70s vintage" and needed more work than it's worth.
Kratovil did not want to vote on purchasing the new plow because he wanted more information regarding fixing the old one.
The board did vote with Swenson and Jarvis agreeing to the purchase, but Swenson did ask Clarke to still provide the information on repairs before going ahead with the actual purchase.
Chief Bernier and the board continued discussions over collaborating with the town of Farmington in the use of an animal control officer.
The board requested Bernier go back to Farmington for more information and cost breakdowns.
Bernier also presented the board with the Highway Safety Project grant application for signing.
According to Bernier, this is a state grant paying officers to patrol Route 11 during certain peak hours.
The grant is for $4,680 and pays off duty officers to work a total of 12 three-hour shifts. It specifies the times and dates of the shifts covered.
Swenson questioned how long the town has been receiving this grant from the state.
"We have been doing this since around 2007, when we were first approached by the state," answered Bernier.
The board voted unanimously to authorize Jarvis to sign the grant.
Tax rate setting
Due to time constraints, the board decided to delay its discussion of the 2013 tax rate until the next meeting. It will be put on the Oct. 21 agenda as an appointment with town assessor Vickie Blackden.
Kratovil decided to bring up one final issue before the board adjourned and that was the replacement of current MRI contracted town administrator Jeremy Bourgeois.
Kratovil stated that while the town owed Bourgeois "a debt of gratitude," there were also a number of incidences recently, which included the Quonset hut error and they lay ultimately at the feet of the town administrator.
"The format needs to be changed," explained Kratovil.
He made a motion that the board request the current town administrator, Bourgeois, look into alternatives for his position.
Jarvis and Swenson both disagreed with a "drastic change" at this time, especially since the town is beginning its budget season.
"I don't see a direct connection to the current town administrator," stated Swenson.
The motion died for a lack of a second.
The New Durham Board of Selectmen will meet next on Oct. 21 at 1 p.m. in the fire station community room.
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